Playboys and rich businessmen, Dubai is fast becoming known for ladies of the night and a place to have fun without limits. For a supposed Islamic country, we wanted to find out why escorts are accepted in Dubai.
“Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” or so went the Ashton Kutcher line at a recent technology conference in the U.S. Dubai however, seems to be bucking the trend. A rich capitalist on steroids culture, with money flowing from every corner of society, it’s no surprise that prostitution in the Emirates is on the rise, with a reported 35,000 escorts in a population of just 2 million.
We spoke to Dejana, a Serbian* Escort currently working in Dubai for a rich businessman who explained to us why she came to Dubai and what she was hoping to get when they arrived.
*The story below has been translated from Serbian.
“I came to Dubai from Serbia when I was 25 looking for a better life. When I got here all I saw was money and more money. It was all the things I could not afford as I come from a lower middle class family. I’m not uneducated, but I didn’t really excel at school and by the time I was 20 I knew I needed to leave the country to better my existence. Dubai seemed great for me because the place was hot and I had been to Spain a few times with my friends and liked the climate. I realised I could probably find a job here and see where it could take me as I could speak some broken russian and I had heard they like it here in many jobs. My fathers uncle was also here running a business and I could stay with him around the Marina which made it perfect for living. I arrived in July when the temperatures were rising so quick I was not used to it. I used to sit indoors for most of the day and check websites for jobs. This is when I was messaged from a girl from Serbia who said I could make a lot of money being a very good businesswoman. I agreed to meet her and we went for a coffee somewhere around the marina area.
She told me she had come 4 years back and was living in a luxury apartment with another girl and that a businessman from Russia who was visiting said he will look after her. I was quite shocked when she told me a man was looking after her who was not her husband but she told me it was OK in Dubai and we had to get by somehow. I said I didn’t understand that a man could pay money to look after her, but she did not explain that she was an escort and that her “visitor” comes twice a year to see her. It was only on another time I met her I understood what was happening. We were out one day in the Cyclone Club in Dubai and I was with friends who go there regularly for dancing. As I was used to dancing back home and on my breaks I thought this place would be good. I was speaking to a guy when my serbian friend came over to me and said she saw me dancing with a girl she knew. We started talking and she introduced me to a friend of hers who was a guy. He came over to me and kissed me on the cheek and wanted to buy me a drink. He seemed really nice and wanted to be my friend. He said he was from Kazakhistan his name was Valentino, and wanted to find a wife in Dubai because the girls in his home country are not nice. I liked him and liked talking to him and we said our goodbyes but he took my number down as I assumed it was ok to give someone your number who seemed ok. My friend was really happy.
Later on in the week I started getting SMS from him saying that he wanted to see me again. I asked if my friend was also coming and he said no and that I should go and meet him. So i arranged a time with him and we met for some dinner and some drinks. He said he had never seen such a beautiful girl and that he was looking for someone to marry. I said I was not available for marriage but that I could be his friend. He seemed very happy at this arrangement, and I thought nothing of it. When we were leaving he gave me a key, and said I could stay at his apartment free for the rest of the summer months and I would not have to pay.
It was then I realised what was going on and I spoke to my Serbian friend who said it was OK and that nothing would happen. She told me this is the life in Dubai and that girls like her and me should take advantage of the situation and let rich businessmen spend as much as they wanted.
I thought this may be a good arrangement but had no idea about any sexual services or anything like that. I truly thought this man was going to be my friend and that he would eventually want to stay with me.
A few days later he came by the apartment and had brought drinks and food for me. I was quite excited and thought this man really looks after me. The next day he came with some jewellery and a diamond bracelet which he said he had bought on his travels and he had thought of me. At no time during these nights did any physical things happen. He was very friendly and said he wanted to be with me but could not spend all his time with me.
I grew very fond of Valentino and he became a close friend. But after a while things began to change. He began asking me to go to the club with him on some nights and said that his friends were excited to meet me. He came home to the apartment one evening and had brought with him a dress and scents as well as a lot of earrings and other jewellery and asked me to choose what I wanted to wear. I chose the things I want and he took the rest back, and he said to meet him at a club in the evening.
Once I was at the club I understood his entire story of helping me. His friends told me he was married and had 4 or 5 girls in Dubai who he “looked after”. I was shocked and upset that he had lied to me and I always thought he was just helping me or liked me a lot. I left early to the apartment and he came after a couple of hours. I told him I was upset and he said sorry to me for lying to me about his story. He told me that he looks after me an and wants to keep looking after me. He stayed and I ended up spending the night with him where he told me he looks after many girls.
It was at this point I decided I had to make a decision. I had no money, no savings, and had no job. I had been jobless now for over a year whilst Valentino had been looking after me and I had decided to stay with him. It was the only possible option for me and it seemed OK because I was happy. I was getting food, money, jewellery, clothes which were all the things I would have to buy anyway. Valentino then started introducing me to his friends. I thought it would be OK as they were all like him. My mind began to accept the thought of getting more things and more money from his friends as well as Valentino.
I was making around $4500 per month in cash from Valentino and his friends just by spending time with them and being with them. This seemed like a perfectly OK thing to do and they made me happy.
I don’t want to stay like this forever, but I am saving money as much as I can and I want to go travelling around Europe and America and Valentino will come with me. I don’t see this as a bad thing because being a prostitute in Serbia is seen as such a bad job, but here in Dubai people ask me how much I will charge and want to spend time with me. There are many girls who are in this position and are not seen as bad people, I do not see myself as a bad person. I don’t see it as escorting men, and I don’t think escorts are even acceptable in Dubai – but no one seems to mind. I just need to make money and earn a living like everyone else in Dubai.”
Being an Islamic Country, and developing its legal system slowly Dubai has a notorious record in not talking about these kinds of issues openly with the general public. The country has faced a large influx of eastern European, Russian and Chinese immigrants all looking for a way to make money quickly. Many girls are from educated backgrounds with college degrees and are certainly not the kind of girls you would expect in this trade if you were from Western countries. Prostitution in Eastern Europe and parts of Western Europe are synonymous with drugs, illegal pimping and poverty.
The Government’s official stance on the issue is that prostitution is certainly not advocated in the country no laws have been passed to allow the practice of it, and it is not wide open on the streets.
However, our findings are on the contrary. Whilst prostitution is not on the “streets” per say, there are certain areas where escorting and prostitution is rife, notably in nightclubs. One such club is club “cyclone”, as well as the Premier club in the Hyatt Regency Dubai. Indeed, many patrons know the exact clubs to attend and there is safety in numbers. Outside these areas and on the streets there are places where rich businessmen will stop by groups of girls and pick them up in expensive cars. The girls will readily accept invitations from local Dubai residents.
When we visited the area, we found that girls from Indonesia, China and India were openly ready to proposition for a price. Upwards of $400 a night was mentioned as a standard.
Escorting and prostitution is not covered by any regulation or laws in Dubai, and girls work off their own risk. Certainly if anyone was caught, the authority would most likely deport both offending parties and/or stipulate a strict jail sentence. Women are also not covered by any prostitution laws as there may be in other countries and as such the trade itself is actually very dangerous should anything happen.
A cocktail of acceptability, lack of accountability, and cash-rich workers has made escorting acceptable in Dubai, a way of making money for women in Dubai. Certainly the women we spoke to were quite adamant their life was not in danger, nor were they subjected to any violence or exploitation – rather they were looked after by rich men.
Whilst the Government declares it completely forbidden under Islamic law, it could easily enforce laws which fine clients for trying, or escorts for offering services. The real issue lies with tourism. Dubai is a flourishing country with its immigrant population and attracts women from all corners of the globe looking for more money than their home country allows. The lure of sun-drenched beaches and a luxury lifestyle is all that is needed to get women into escorting.
Secondly, the way the girls are treated is not seen as “seedy” as we would perhaps suggest in the West. The entire experience of entering a club, dancing with girls, talking to them and negotiating prices is seen as a perfectly acceptable norm and punters will explain that this is the Dubai life and this is why Dubai exists in the first place – to allow people to carry on however they want. The recent arrest and imprisonment of two couples kissing in public would however refute this argument, as will various reports of police beatings and harassment over couples kissing and cuddling in public. This is where the Government falters, and should aim to be more consistent in its approach and applying laws universally.
A few years back the authorities closed down Club Cyclone for allowing escorts to provide sexual services in the club itself, but this is a very rare occurrence, and authorities will rarely act unless there is a serious breach in decency which in this case was.
Dubai continues to become a capital of choice for escorts wanting a better life, and as such the acceptability of escorting will continue to rise. With the legal system being refined in Dubai yearly, we can expect stricter penalties being placed on escorting and prostitution in Dubai but certainly not in the near future.
The balance of a healthy tourism culture and and the attraction of foreign investors plays a crucial part in the ways laws are being extended to the population, and any laws passed will have to take this into consideration. This is an uneasy truce which the authorities in Dubai will have to wrestle with in the coming years but for now remains a silent issue lurking in the background.
What do you think about the escort culture in Dubai?